Charles Schulz, a life of Good Grief
Charles Schulz was not only a cartoonist; he was a man that, through his art, reshaped our daily lives in a way that most don’t realize. He did more than entertain us on Sunday morning, he showed us true spirit and philosophy. The small “blah” boy from Minneapolis left an unmistakable impression through his actions in and out of the comics.
Charles Schulz was the son of Dena Halverson and Carl Schulz. He was born in Minneapolis in 1922 around the same time that the Nazi party was gaining power, an event that would come back to haunt him. In an ironic reference to the popular comic strip “Barney Google” his uncle said, “By Golly we should call him Sparky!” when he was born. “ He wanted to do what he was put on earth to do, draw funny pictures, even though cartoonists were not seen as artists and were looked down upon at the time. His life was beginning to take its cartooning shape.
“Yes, I suppose we should say good-bye”, was the last thing Sparky heard before he headed off to World War 2. His mother was suffering from cancer and Sparky was being shipped off to war. “I remember crying in my bunk that night.” reminisces Sparky. His mom died the next day. Sparky was very successful in the army. Through all his success, he had tears for he had lost part of his life and felt empty. He kept a cheerful countenance throughout the war, even though he wasn’t cheerful.
Throughout his life, Sparky has had many experiences that have formed the Peanuts philosophy; through analysis of his art and life, one can draw conclusions about the legacy he created with his philosophy of happiness and cruelty. This legacy he created is best shown through Peanuts itself.
The Kite Eating Tree:
Something needed to soar in a comic strip, and Charlie Brown's kite was the perfect thing to soar. It would glide Peanuts along. The kite eating tree idea came from Schulz's childhood. When he would get his kite stuck in a tree, it would be gone the next day. He concluded that the tree must be eating it. The kite idea worked so well because it fit with Schulz’s theme of happiness. Flying a kite represents simple happiness and lightheartedness with sadness and with a sense of loss, the core emotions that drove Schulz's life.
The Great Pumpkin:
Linus's belief in the great pumpkin is a showing of unrequited faith. Every year poor Linus sits out in the freezing cold weather on Halloween and waits for the great pumpkin to come. The great Pumpkin never comes and Linus is left to be laughed at. This is also like Charlie Brown coming back from the Psychiatry booth; they both have very little success and are laughed at, yet they go back and try again. Schulz offers the idea of believing of what you want to believe in and not changing what you believe in because of other people. For example, during his mom's cancer, the doctors told Schulz that his mother had only a few months to live. He still kept his faith in her living. When she died, the great pumpkin didn't come either.
The Little Red Haired Girl:
Unrequited love: one of the worst things that one can experience. Many people know unrequited love from a man named Charles Schulz, the unmistakable relationships of Lucy and Schroeder, Sally and Linus, Linus and Ms. Othmar, and of course, Charlie Brown and that little red haired girl. These unforgettable scenarios came from Donna Wold. Donna rejected Schulz for marriage for a Minneapolis firefighter named Allen Wold. She loved both men but had to choose one. But Sparky, even though he lost his true love, felt sorry for hurting Donna because she would have to reject one man.All of these emotions would be projected through poor Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally and Linus. All of those four characters would be rejected. They would all share similar experiences on unrequited love, one of the worst feelings in the world.
When Snoopy came around, he was just a nice neighborhood dog. But when he stood on two feet, he evolved. He evolved into a dog who can not only walk and think like a human but fly a plane, arm wrestle, and ice skate. What Snoopy depicts is how your life is limited by what you believe you can do. An example of this is Schulz fighting hard to become a cartoonist when he was young. “He wanted badly to be a cartoonist” said Donna Wold in a personal interview. Even early in his life, he had already set his sights on a syndicated strip.
Woodstock is the little bird friend of Snoopy who was named Woodstock after the rock concert. Snoopy would sit on top of his doghouse all day waiting for the highlight of his day: eating. Woodstock would come around to talk to Snoopy because friends give happiness in the of worst times. Schulz believed that you should treasure the friends that you have. They will help you live a better life. The Woodstock philosophy came from his mother. His mother was his greatest love, and when she was gone, he wished he would have treasured it a little more.
The famous football scenes came from when Schulz was a child. Schulz and his friends would always pull the football away from their friends as a joke. Schulz would put this in his art through the strips interpreted antagonist, Lucy, and the interpreted protagonist, Charlie Brown. The main philosophy behind the football sequences is that persistence should be used. Being persistent is Charlie Brown's downfall. But you can see that Schulz exhibited a showing of persistence in the football scenarios. Back before Peanuts, Schulz sent in his work to many Syndicates. He would see a rejection slip, but instead of sending the same cartoon, he would try again to make a better comic.
Schulz believed that you should make the best of whatever is happening. In baseball, Charlie Brown's baseball team loses every single game. They players miss fly balls over their heads, sleep during ground balls, and have their “quiet times” during the game. Charlie Brown had never won a baseball game, but when the late 90's came around, Charlie Brown hit a game winning home run, and all his friends could say was “you?” Schulz's life followed the same path. When Schulz was in the army, he used the time to practice his cartooning. He would draw on people's letters they sent home. Schulz made the best of his army life.
People go nuts for peanuts:
Peanuts started becoming popular in the late 1950's. However, when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” came out in 1965, Peanut's popularity skyrocketed. People started to take notice of the simplicity of his genius. When Linus went to talk to Charlie Brown about the true meaning of Christmas, it touched people’s hearts. The cartoonist’s society also recognized his genius. He has won a large number of awards, but the awards alone cannot quantify all of his achievements. There is probably no one today who has not seen references of his work in pop culture. But with the appearances came his good values and morals. Peanuts has also created a path for many comics such as Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, and Bloom Country, with Schulz's style of simple drawing and subtle humor. “My eye always goes to the simple comics” said Donna Wold. People's view on comics have changed from seeing it as a novelty to an art form. Even simplicity can change the world.
Under lots of cheering, one of the greatest cartoonists ever walks up to a podium to accept an important award. All he says is “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you. Luke 6:26” and steps down. He was later asked if he feels what he did was important in life, and responded, “Well you know, what have you done, drawn a comic strip, who cares?” “I think I've done the best with what ability I have, I haven't wasted my ability” “[but] I do not regard what I'm doing as great art.” Schulz did not realize how many lives he had touched with his unforgettable characters. He also changed our daily vocabulary and lifestyle. He connected with our hearts and taught us how we can see a little of his characters in all of us. You're a good man Charles Schulz.